Stressed Eric (BBC2, 1998-2000)
The word “stressed” backwards is “desserts” – just think about that. Er, right… Something rather interesting happened on American TV in the 90s, when there was a big wave of animated sitcoms aimed at adults. Where The Simpsons led, many others followed, including King Of The Hill. It seemed a logical step to produce some of these for British TV too.
I’ve already looked back at Bob And Margaret, which is an example of one of these, and this is another one. The main character in Stressed Eric was voiced by Mark Heap, and as you could know by now, I’ll always consider this to be a good move, you can’t really go wrong if he is among your cast. Eric Feeble is a 40-year-old father-of-two who is divorced, and we often hear this thoughts.
Eric’s wife has long-since left him. The two children are his daughter Claire who is allergic to almost everything, along with his son Brian, who almost never speaks, and he likes to eat things that are supposedly inedible. To help out, he has Maria, a teenage Portuguese au pair (who has blue hair!!), but it she is rather useless, and even worse behaved than the children.
At work, Eric’s angry boss is rather demanding like the ones in various 80s pop songs, and he likes to say “arseburgers” all the time (and as far as invented expletives go, that’s got to be up there with “Burt Bacharach!”). When things inevitably go wrong, he likes to yell “Feeble!”, as if he’s in a 50s sitcom or something. Can you believe it.
And then there are the next-door neighbours Mr and Mrs Perfect, supposedly the finest example of a happy family. All of this eventually gets on top of him, and episodes conclude with his heart pumping and his head little short of exploding, it’s a rather bold move to essentially make your main character’s catchphrase “woooarrggh!”. Oh Eric, will you ever win?
Stressed Eric was an Absolutely production, meaning that Morwenna Banks and Gordon Kennedy were among the cast providing the voices, as were Alexander Armstrong and Rebecca Front. There were 13 episodes in two series, and there were plenty of changes for the second, including a switch to widescreen and digital animation, along with moving timeslot from 10pm to 6:45pm. There were also repeat runs on BBC Choice and UK Play.
Interestingly, Stressed Eric was sold to an American market, with Eric’s voice being redubbed by Hank Azaria (of The Simpsons fame), and about five minutes had to be edited out to fit the timeslot. This wasn’t really a success though, with many critics feeling that this didn’t have much to offer that could rival The Simpsons or any similar show.